Perinatal Depression


Intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair during pregnancy, or after childbirth, which interfere with a mother’s ability to function. The perinatal period, beginning three months prior to pregnancy and ending one year postpartum, is a time of heightened vulnerability to depression.


Why Does This Matter?

Perinatal depression is a major public health problem. It undermines the health and well-being of mothers, their infants, and their families. Reports show that it affects 10% to 25% of women, and up to 48% of those living in poverty.

Depression endangers women both emotionally and physically, reducing the use of preventive health measures and the management of chronic health conditions. It may strain a woman’s relationship with her partner, and increase the risk of self-injury and suicide. Studies demonstrate a link between depression during pregnancy and risky behaviors, such as late or inconsistent prenatal care, and the use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances. Depression increases the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, including low birthweight and premature delivery. New research suggests that specific stress hormones are elevated in the depressed pregnant mother, and that these can cross the placenta and cause the newborn to be more irritable and jittery for at least six months after delivery. Numerous studies have shown that the mental health of the mother affects the different stages of a child’s development, not just in utero, but during the infant’s bonding stage, and during the independent toddler years.

  • In 2005, in Los Angeles County, 25.2% of all pregnant woman reported that they did not have someone to listen to their problems.
  • In 2005, 17.5% of LA County pregnant women described their pregnancy as “a hard time” and 29.2% said that they lost interest in hobbies/work during pregnancy.
  • SPA 1 (Antelope Valley) had the highest percent of women who described their pregnancy as “a hard time’ (21.9%).
  • SPA 7 (East Los Angeles) had the highest percent of women who lost interest in their hobbies/work during pregnancy (33.4%).
  • SPA 5 (West)  had the highest percent of women who had someone who would listen to their problems during pregnancy (84.1%) and also the lowest percent of women who reported losing interest in hobbies/work during pregnancy.
  • SPA 2 (San Fernando) had the lowest percent (14.1%) of women who described pregnancy as “a hard time”.
Psychosocial Risk Factors
Percent (%) Prevalence 
Described pregnancy as a hard time  17.5%  21.9%  14.1%  21.1%  14.4%  17.2%  16.7%  21.0% 16.8%
Lost interest in hobbies/work during pregnancy  29.2%


 28.4%  28.9%  28.8%  16.1%  28.9%  33.4%  29.4%
Had someone to listen to problems  74.8%  76.6%  76.7%  75.4% 70.7%  84.1%  70.1%  76.7%  74.8%



For further information, please read the LA Best Babies Network Perinatal Scorecard

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